1644: Leland’s Historical Map of Lerpole

This really is an old map of Liverpool. But don’t be fooled by its looks. It’s not as ancient as the street layout suggests, despite that olde worlde spelling of Lerpole!

Look closely and you’ll see that, as well as the familiar seven streets in the centre, there are more to the north. (North is to the left on this map.) This is Liverpool in the 17th century, as imagined in the 19th.

The large feature in the centre is the ‘Mudwall Fort’. There are also trenches marked, guns and other units mapped on the Great Heath and our towards Kirkdale. It’s like there’s a war on!

Copied from the original map

This map is titled:

Historical Map of Lerpole, from a very curious plan, originally in the possession of Mr Leland, the antiquarian, ann. dom. 1539 with the fortifications as they appeared at the time of the siege, 1644.

So it’s a map of the opposing forces’ positions during a key Merseyside moment of the English Civil War. Liverpool was an important town because of its links with Ireland. The Hale Ford was also a crucial crossing point on the Mersey.

Many of you will know of (Royalist) Prince Rupert’s siege of Liverpool. He stood on the hill at Everton and bombarded the town. Apparently he’d also brought his magic dog and his monkey (also magic). Oliver Cromwell’s army held the castle, and were dug in, ready for the attack.

Rupert’s siege had its effect, and his army took the town. They immediately burned it, so we can’t be sure how keen he was on having Liverpool for himself after all.

A map of two old maps of Liverpool

Leland’s map is therefore a confusing mash-up of 16th century streets underlying a 17th century event. I’m not sure why it was made this way. Maybe mapping budgets were at a premium when it was made, and a two-in-one map made sense.

The other important note is in the bottom left corner: Copyed (sic) from the original map by J. Butler 1862. Look again at the key in the top right, and the last of the 13 numbered features is the ‘Bridge at the Townend’. This name has an appendix: “The names of the streets changed – town much larger than in Leland’s time”.

So indeed the publishers knew that this wasn’t an accurate base map for their Civil War map of Liverpool. Then why use it? Perhaps it was the nearest map, in time, that Butler had when trying to map the events of 300 years before. If you have any ideas yourself, I’d be interested to hear them!

Map features of Lerpole

What can we see on this map? Ignoring the Civil War features – mud wall, trenches and troops – the town of Liverpool is still small. It’s bounded on its southern side by the Pool, and this seems to have slowed development in that direction. This is the ‘Lyrepole Common’ (yes, another spelling variation!), marked in several spots as ‘marsh’, and once as ‘swampy ground’. No wonder the Romans never bothered with us! We also see the ferry house at the start of the ‘road over the common’. Travellers could use this ferry to bring them to Castle Heys (now Lord Street).

Liverpool Castle is marked. It wouldn’t be completely demolished until 1726, though you could say that Rupert’s siege was the castle’s swansong. It never really recovered from the mess it was left in. Next to the castle is the cuck-stool pool. The cuck stool was a form of public humiliation and punishment, most notoriously associated with the trials of alleged witches, but more commonly used for anyone – man or woman – who were deemed nuisances.

Liverpool town centre

Further north we see the familiar street layout, though older names are used her: Juggler instead of High Street, Bancke instead of Water Street, and Peppard instead of Old Hall Street.

We find the town hall on the east side of Juggler Street, and the Custom House, St Nicholas Chapel and Lord Derby’s Stone House or Tower (Liverpool Tower) by the riverside.

There are three crosses in the town: the Red Cross is on the site of the present Red Cross Street. The High Cross and the White Cross are at the south and north ends of Juggler Street respectively.

North of the town

With fewer features preventing it spreading, development is greater north of the town. Four main roads lead off to Kirkdale and Everton, which we’d now recognise as Pall Mall and Love Lane (Love Lane on the map), Vauxhall Road (Pinfold Lane) and Scotland Road (‘road to Walton’). Fields are laid out, perhaps the same fields we can see labelled with ownership on another map.

Other features are numbered on the map, and named in the key in the top right. While at first sight this map might not seem to have a great deal on it, a closer look revealed a lot which is of interest. Not one for the family historians this time, perhaps this map of ‘Lerpole’, but definitely one for the general historian.

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